Since the development of roller blinds (possibly in 1700s Scotland), the concept appears to have remained basically the same.

Today’s roller shades do look something like the original concept. They still feature a fabric panel attached to a roller. They still control glare and solar heat gain. And the strength and effectiveness of the shade still relies for the most part on the fabric.

But on closer inspection it’s obvious the roller shades of today are not your grandparents’ window shades.

Here are a few examples of the evolution of window shades.

Motorized FlexShades at Champaign, Illinois Public Library. Photography by Barry Rustin, Evanston, Illinois.

Not just a spring roller.
Early roller shades were cord operated. It wasn’t until the 1800s when the spring roller was developed, and this is the type of window shade most American adults remember from their school years.

Now there are several ways of operating shades. Motorized shades are easy to use and allow bigger shades than ever. Cranks and bead chain clutches have joined spring rollers as manual operating systems. Cranks easily raise or lower window shades to the exact desired height, and the crank can be detachable to limit shade access. Bead chain clutch shades are a durable, low maintenance option that are easy to operate.

Control from anywhere.
The development of motorized shades ushered in a new era of precision, efficiency, and flexibility. Wall switches and remote controls make it faster and easier to raise or lower shades. Programmable controls stop shade panels at pre-determined intermediate positions between up and down. Tying shading systems in to overall building control systems every shade in a facility to be automatically raised or lowered as needed to match the window location and the position of the sun. And in this world of the Internet of Things, some controls allow you to log in and control shades from a remote location!

Draper Motorized FlexShades at Wherry Elementary in Albequerque, New Mexico; Photographer: Matt Oberer, Matt O Photo.

Fabric advancements.
It is still true that the fabric panel has the biggest impact on a window shade’s performance. Draper works with the world’s best fabric suppliers, including U.S.-based Phifer and Mermet USA.

Fabric technology developments have improved performance to the point that we now have various characteristics to solve specific problems. We find the perfect solution for glare control, heat gain, or natural views by dialing in openness factor and fabric color.

Here are some examples of fabric technology improvements:

  • Mermet fabrics with KOOLBLACK® combine the view-through of dark colors with the solar control of light colors.
  • Phifer fabrics with Microban antimicrobial additives resist mold and bacteria.
  • Greenguard Gold-certified fabrics meet the strictest standards for low chemical emissions.
  • PVC-free fabrics contain no hazardous phthalates.

Precision manufacturing and custom fit.
Gone are the days of hand-cutting fabric with scissors. All fabric cutting is now done using CNC machines. The manufacture of every component is driven by computerized data to extremely tight tolerances. When a shade leaves our Spiceland, Indiana factory, it has been designed and constructed to precisely fit a specific window opening.

Anywhere you want them.
The advent of motorized shading exploded the applications and locations where operable shades could be used:

  • Up high where they can’t be reached by hand.
  • In very large window openings.
  • On slanted glazing.
  • Just about anywhere there’s a need for solar control, there’s a motorized shading solution.

Even with all this evolution, some things about Draper window shades haven’t changed. Our shades are still made to stand the test of time. Every shade that leaves our factory has been visually inspected and operated by one of our shade manufacturing specialists to make sure it looks good and works like it should. And we still have our original commitment to provide quality solutions at a fair price.

For more information on Draper’s own history, click here.

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